Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Caviar ranchers bringing indulgence to your plate

Renee and Keith Koerner have sunk their retirement portfolio deep: it's 5 to 20 feet under the surface of area lakes, swimming in circles. They've staked everything they have on a prehistoric fish with a weird 2-foot long paddle sticking from its head that takes ten years to produce a salable product. But when it does, it's one of the most valuable foods you can sell, measured in amounts usually used for illegal drugs. The Koerners are caviar ranchers. They raise American paddlefish, harvest its roe and turn it into caviar. There has always been wild paddlefish caviar, but it's been treated as a commodity. Renee, with a background in wine and fine dining, is taking extra care with hers, making an artisanal product that she hopes will rival the quality of Russian caviar, from sturgeons so overfished that it is out of reach. "We're creating an industry," said Renee. She thinks of it like wine, which she has served and sold throughout her career in fine dining, as maitre d' at Maisonette, as a rep for Vintner Select wines. There is a big difference between some kinds of fermented grape juice and others. "Caviar will always be somewhat expensive," she said, "But ours will be within most people's budget for an occasional indulgence, like a $50 bottle of wine." They've been at it for a decade, and they're getting close to the payoff...more

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